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Southern Gardening - Potpourri for October

The one good thing about the lockdown for COVID19 virus is that there was no lockdown on the garden scene. The only lockdown in my garden was what I self-imposed when I was too lazy to get out there. Sure, there were no in person garden seminars to attend, and many public gardens were closed, but that has not kept the “green thumb” group from making the most of the situation. With the nurseries and the big box stores open for business, we shopped with our masks on, for whatever we could find. I came across a few unusual coneflowers in yellow, crisp white, and varying shades of purple blooms. Also last year's dwarf Lilies of the Nile were such a success, that I found several more to add to my pots. This variety is called “Peter Pan,” and in addition, the variety “Tinker Bell” has variegated foliage. Both are fairly drought resistance.

What to plant this month in our flower gardens and pot gardens? Herbs are always a good choice for either the beds or pots. Many herbs can be purchased today in the River Region from any of the plant outlets. The most available would be parsley, both Italian (flat), and curled; sage; rosemary; thyme; chives; lavender; oregano; cilantro; fennel; and mint. Most herbs have great application mixed in with other flowers in the garden. It becomes sort of a dual action flowerbed, some sections for cut flowers and the other for eating. I am also fond of Russian Sage, a perennial that forms drifts of small purple flowers atop misty gray-green leaves. If these are planted close to fall blooming Solidago, or goldenrod, you have created a most splashy color combination. Both of these are dependable perennials, tall in height, and very drought resistant. With goldenrod, I just thin the young plants in the spring as they can be overbearing. Marigolds are a colorful choice to plant now to perhaps fill in holes left in the garden when one had to pull out spent annuals. Planted in drifts, the dwarf marigolds can be very attractive when planted with orange and pale yellow mixed together. When talking about mixing together, I mean planting at least 4-6 plants of one color, then 4-6 plants of the other color. When dianthus becomes available later this month, grab these since they will become workhorses for the winter garden. Dianthus loves cool to cold weather and makes a beautiful border plant. I have had great success in the past with sowing sweet alyssum in fall, creating a stunning white border. I do prefer the white to the purple, but both perform well this time of year. Chrysanthemums, with a world of color choices, make a good addition to your garden. At this time, do not buy little bitty plants with the hope they will spread, wrong. These are perennials, and if kept over time, they may meet your expectations. I made a terrible mistake this summer with the Pacific Giant Zinnias. By July these zinnias were in full bloom, white, yellow, pink, purple and all colors in between. I knew I needed to shear them back by at least half by mid July. But against my better judgment, I pruned just the tops back. Now I am regretting that mistake. Instead of coming into late fall with bushy, green stemmed, flower filled plants, mine are very leggy with a layer of flower across the top. Now I will have to pull them out. I will leave a few to develop seed heads, and hopefully learn this same lesson I learned about 10 years ago. As they say, don't make the same mistake twice.

Bulbs that will be blooming in the spring, like crocus, ranunculus, tulips, hyacinths, freesia, daffodils and paperwhites should be planted in late January since they may rot in the ground with a lot of winter rainfall. Also tulips will have to be refrigerated for 6 weeks before planting. The best bulbs to plant now would be Asiatic and Oriental lilies. Some do not know the difference between the two and used the types

interchangeably. Asiatic lilies are not fragrant, they are early bloomers, much shorter in stature, and have one bloom per stem. Easter lilies are Asiatic. Oriental lilies bloom late spring to summer, are very fragrant, and have large, multi bloom heads, and can rise from 2-8 feet in height. Stargazer is an Oriental lily. Both lilies have a long vase life when cut and brought inside. Plus lilies are the top ten flowers that people choose in the world.



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